Good news, America — we’re only slightly more miserable than we were a year ago.
By DONALD BRADLEY
The Kansas City Star
Unless, that is, you’re from Missouri, which has been ranked on a misery measurement this year as slightly happier than a Dickens workhouse.
So says the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses statistics of physical health, obesity, work environment and household income to come up with a formula to measure overall misery. Missouri crashed through the kitchen floor from 17th most miserable to the basement at 8th worst.
But, meanly, the survey gives Missourians another reason to moan — the measured, so-called “happiness” of Kansans, 7th best in the country.
The study took all the criteria to come up with a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the ideal well-being. The national score dropped to 66.2 in 2011 from 66.8 in 2010.
Criteria worsened in every category in Missouri.
But at least we’re not West Virginia, which topped the misery rankings.
In calling West Virginians the most miserable, the study goes on to say that “they have reasons to feel that way.” The state has the nation’s lowest life expectancy and highest rate of smoking. More than one in 10 has had a heart attack or suffers from coronary artery disease. The state’s obesity is second-worst.
Missouri has the 11th highest smoking rate and landed in the top 20 in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The state’s life expectancy is 77.4 years, the country’s 12th worst.
Between West Virginia and Missouri, in order, are Kentucky, Mississippi, Delaware, Ohio, Alabama and Arkansas.
On the other end of spectrum, people in Hawaii are the country’s happiest.
What a shock.
But Kansas coming in as the seventh happiest state threw Bruce Roberson, a Kansas City attorney who grew up in Columbia.
“It’s obviously a flawed study,” he said with a smile Monday inside the Twin City Tavern.
A lot of Border War trash talk goes on at Twin City at the corner of Westport Road and State Line Road, but if it’s more social science, Joe Morales, 62, will go along.
He thinks Missouri’s poor showing in a misery study is due in part to the state having two large cities, St. Louis and Kansas City.
“There’s more stress in Missouri,” said Morales, an Armourdale resident of Kansas City, Kan., who used to live on Strawberry Hill.
“More people in Kansas seem to live in their comfort zone,” he said, cruising along amid the calm of ethnic neighborhoods, small towns and farms.
The new study referred more to Kansas having the country’s 15th lowest obesity rate and ranking 17th in the percentage of residents with a high school diploma. Kansans live on average to 78.4 years.
Hawaii ranked first in life expectancy — 81.5 years, a span due to low rates for obesity, smoking, cancer and heart disease. The state also boasts a high median income and low poverty rate.
Pretty steady luau weather probably doesn’t hurt.
Between the Hawaiians and Kansans, in order, are the folks from North Dakota — delirious that this year it’s never reached below a balmy -17 there — Minnesota, Utah, Alaska and Colorado. New Hampshire, Nebraska and Montana finish the list.
Trend? Nine of the top 10 happy states are in the West or Midwest. Half the states in the 10 most miserable pile are in the South.
Back at the Twin City Tavern, bartender and co-owner Kim Moffitt didn’t hesitate when asked who was the happier of her customers from Missouri and Kansas.
“Depends whose sports teams are doing best,” she said.
But here’s a little something to make the Missourians feel better. We’re right next to Florida (9th most miserable), and they’ve got warm weather, beaches, spring training and Disney World.
Is that goofy or what?
To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.